Of fakes and failures: Not everything in jeweller Theo Fennell's house is as precious as it appears
Sunday 11 November 2007
We live in a large, Victorian, ground-floor flat in a leafy backwater of Chelsea. It's nice to have somewhere that's in London and yet quiet and calm. The only other place in London I remember being this tranquil was at my dentist's surgery when I was young. It was in the back of a house on a busy road, and I can remember to this day the view from the window and how ironically peaceful it was considering the pain that was about to be inflicted on me.
Everything in this room is a mixture of the accumulated, inherited, given and bought, but I love the way it has become like a scrapbook of things we have loved. We believed for years that the little table next to this chair was a late-11th-century piece brought back from Africa. Then my great aunt died and we discovered it was one of those mass-produced things they knocked out in the 1920s. It's funny to think we used to creep around it reverently.
My wife, Louise, takes charge of most of the interior decorating, but for form's sake I stick my oar in every now and again. The things I have chosen are generally the things that grate, such as a portrait [not in photograph] of Brian Howard, who is known as "the world's greatest failure". He was the model for Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited; a character from that between-the-wars generation who promised a huge amount and did nothing. I think if you're not going to have family pictures up, then you should have failures, they always make one feel better about oneself. Another point of contention is the painting on the opposite wall [seen in mirror]. I see it as a journey into the unknown, but no one else seems to like it.
To be honest, this room is only three-quarters finished - like most of the places we live in always remain. I tend to think that when the inside of a house is completely finished it is a bit sad because there is nowhere else to go. Personally, I like the idea of a work in progress.
Theo Fennell, 4 The Courtyard, Royal Exchange, London EC3, tel: 020 7623 4380, www.theofennell.com
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